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The two men stepped off the elevator at the same time as the two other / other two men stepped out of the stairwell.

Does one of "the two other" and "the other two" sound awkward here?

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    It's extremely bad style to have both the two men AND the other two men in the same sentence, referring to two different pairs of men, but both using the definite article. Either discard the second article completely or change it to an "indefinite" reference: ...at the same time as another two men [did something else]. In either case, in the spoken version, other / another would probably be heavily stressed as well, to help make it clear that these are different men to the first ones. Mar 11, 2021 at 18:01

3 Answers 3

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Your sentence is confusing.

Unless you have identified the men concerned previously, the use of the makes no sense.

So, with a few amendments, your sentence might read:

Two men stepped out of the elevator ... as two other men emerged from the stairwell.

If you have already identified the men concerned:

The two men stepped out of the elevator ... as the two other fellows emerged from the stairwell.

The repetition of men in this context would be grammatical but it serves only to confuse.

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I agree with others that using both the two men and either of your the other two men and the two other men is very unfortunate.

And while I also agree with others that the two other and the other two are essentially the same, they are not identical in meaning. The latter can carry the sense of considering those exiting the stairwell as a unit. To render that subtlety a bit less subtle, one could replace that latter by the other pair.

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While I agree with the comment above on the matter of the previous identification of the subjects being necessary, I am not entirely sure that this response alone does dispel all doubts on this matter.

There are some claims that "the two other" is a more popularly used formula than "the other two" when subjects have been identified before. However, these claims do not seem definitive.

The way I see it, "the other two" is a style that is used more often when at the end of a sentence, to provide enhanced impact and closure to the dialogue.

On the other hand, "the two other" is found more often when referring somewhat more respectfully to human beings (not e.g.: to objects) while in the middle of a sentence.

However, without the intent to spur controversy, I would appreciate further clarification on this matter by a native expert.

In other languages, such as Spanish, the correct order is almost always "the other two" ("los otros dos") - being "the two other" gramatically incorrect (save for some very specific cases - see P.S.), while in French the word ordering formula "the two other" can also be found as "les deux autres".

Given the tendency of British English to usually reverse the word order from Castillian Spanish dialogue [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] in order to differentiate their speakers across the Bay of Biscay (therefore bringing them closer to their counterparts across the English Channel), I would be led to believe that the preferred formula in the United Kindgdom would thus be "the two other". Of course, one could also say that it is Castillian Spanish that reverses word order from British English in some sense.

Correspondingly, as North-American English tends to incorporate more formulas from (International) Spanish, particularly along the West Coast (as, reciprocally, Mexican Spanish does from North-American English), in their version, the formula "the other two" could also be popular there as well.

P.S. In Spanish, the expression "los dos otros" is not grammatically incorrect per se, but its use is much less common and may depend on the specific context in which it is used. Usually, "los otros dos" is used to express the same idea, following the typical grammatical structure in Spanish. However, "los dos otros" can be valid in certain contexts or in some regional varieties of Spanish.

An example of a context in which "los dos otros" could be appropriate is when you want to emphasize that there are two specific elements among several. For example:

"De todos los invitados, Juan y María fueron los dos otros que también llegaron temprano." ("Out of all the guests, Juan and María were the other two who also arrived early.")

In this sentence, it is emphasizing that Juan and María are the two additional guests who joined the ones who were already present. Although this structure may sound less common, it is understandable and acceptable in the given context.

In summary, while "los otros dos" is the most common way to express this idea in Spanish, "los dos otros" can be used in certain, very specific contexts to emphasize or clarify the inclusion of two specific elements among others of the same nature.

[1] "Spanish Influence on English"

Source: British Council Description: This article explores the historical and linguistic influences of Spanish on English, including how word order and sentence structure can differ between the two languages. URL: British Council - Spanish Influence on English

[2] "A Comparative Study of English and Spanish Syntax"

Author: Andrew Radford Description: This academic book delves into the syntactic differences between English and Spanish, including word order variations. It provides in-depth analysis and examples. ISBN: 978-0340859916

[3] "Spanish and English in Contact: The Inevitability of Spanglish"

Author: Carol A. Klee Description: This book discusses language contact between Spanish and English, including how Spanish influence can affect English word order and syntax. ISBN: 978-0761847764

[4] "Word Order in English Sentences: A Corpus-Based Study of Syntax and Style"

Author: Bas Aarts Description: While this book primarily focuses on English sentence structure, it may provide insights into how Spanish influence can impact word order in British English. ISBN: 978-0199246310

[5] "Word Order and Time in Biblical Hebrew Narrative"

Author: Tal Goldfajn Description: This academic work explores the relationship between word order and temporal expressions in biblical Hebrew, which may offer insights into how word order can affect meaning in languages like Spanish and English. ISBN: 978-0199265730

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